That’s Saint André Bessette. Simple prayer. But pray always.
Do you remember to say “grace” before meals? Do you bless what you eat?
Questions better asked, perhaps, before the feasts of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s. (Did we forget to mention Thanksgiving?).
But pertinent questions, are they, all year round.
For blessing food, praying before we eat, is necessary first of all because it involves God in something very critical to living on earth, namely eating and drinking. When we say grace, we’re acknowledging Him. We are appreciating His role. We are citing His bounty — without which all fails. We are acknowledging Jesus Christ.
Gratitude is accompanied by just what it says: grace. Our persons are blessed by the prayer, along with the food. It is wise to collect one’s thoughts and make sure the prayer is heartfelt.
How often we forget whether or not we even said it! One does remember, however, when a prayer comes from the heart. In prayer, approaching God as a child can count; that is, with dependence (on God), innocence, sincerity, and humility.
The protection comes with the Lord making certain that what enters our mouths is healthful. He guide us as to what to ingest, when we think to ask Him. If we’re unsure about eating something, we should pose that as a form of a question before sitting down — when we’re deciding what to eat — and then ask in the prayer that the food strengthen us where our body needs strengthening.
The Holy Spirit is great at leading us to what our bodies need (when we are prayerful). Pray all day over all you drink and eat. Throughout his life, Saint André existed almost entirely on what he called “gruel” — a mixture that included water and flour. That was all. And yet so prayerful was he that it sustained him to a very old age. God has imbued it.
Does the blessing — especially the Sign of the Cross — also drive out any potential darkness?
Although that may seem “paranoid,” who knows, in this fallen world? Spirits can transfer. Most of the time we don’t know exactly who has handled our food: the setting and spirituality of those growing, raising, picking, processing, or packaging it.
There are cases — and it’s not like they’re common, but they do exist — where folks making what we eat intentionally cast a spirituality and even curse upon it.
We had an article earlier this week on a major high-end chocolatier that advertises its New Age approach, sending “vibes” into the product and even playing sounds at a specific frequency while the chocolate is manufactured.
Well-intentioned, perhaps; but immersed in Eastern mysticism (and hopefully not worse. One of the company’s emblems is a snake.).
There have been cases whereby food was intentionally “cursed.” Historically witches and gypsies were known to use potions snuck into food or drink to affect those imbibing or ingesting and one expert of the arcane, Adam Blai, who works for the archdiocese of Pittsburgh, recounts how their team of exorcists had to deliver a man whose mother-in-law had prayed an actual curse on the Thanksgiving gravy — as absurd as that sounds. It had huge spiritual effects!
Not a common thing, perhaps. But did you know that a saint is credited with starting one formal ritual of grace exactly to prevent this? As “Forums of the Virgin Mary” points out, “Blessing is a gesture that is made so that God manifests His grace and His protection towards a person, a relationship, a house, a company, an object, a meal. We can all bless. Priests have the power to bless with the power of the merits of the entire Church, while the laity has received the possibility of blessing by baptism and their power derives from their personal merits.
“When we invoke God’s blessing we implore His Divine benevolence, trusting that He will respond. The case recounted by Saint Gregory the Great, from the sixth century, tells us how the tradition of making the Sign of the Cross over food began. Saint Gregory the Great recounted a holy abbot named Iquitius who intervened when a demon entered a nun who had eaten a piece of lettuce with a demon on it. When he was performing the exorcism on the nun, the demon that possessed her began to scream, ‘I was in the lettuce; she didn’t expel me from there and ate the lettuce.’ Therefore, from there began the custom of making the Sign of the Cross before eating any food or drinking any drink to exorcise it and expel possible evil [or for that matter, ill health effects].”
Or so goes the account.
What a nice time, sitting down for a meal, to pray together and for each other. Prayer before eating may also help us restrain us from overindulgence.
Look at what Jesus told us to do — at the Last Supper. The first Church was in homes centered on meals.
Pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray in all endeavors in this world of constant challenge. Pray before doing anything.
[Footnotes: The popular prayer (with words that at the same time assist the deceased):
Before: Bless us, O Lord! and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.
After: We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to you, who gives us all.
And one more (from the Canadian bishops):
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
maker of heaven and earth
and Father of all your people:
we give you glory for your goodness
and for your loving care for us.
Bless this food [this bread]
and grant that all who eat it
may be strong in body
and grow in your love.
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
for ever and ever.]